China-made jet takes off in maiden flight

Jay Anderson
May 20, 2017

China's first large homemade passenger jetliner is due to make its maiden flight from Shanghai later Friday, May 5, 2017.

China Daily, a state run newspaper, ran an article titled: "Is this an end to an era of Boeing and Airbus" which discussed recent job cuts at both aviation companies. By the end of a year ago, 21 customers had placed orders for more than 500 C919 aircraft, and COMAC expects to sell at least 2,000.

After about 90 minutes in the air, C-919, the first large domestically made passenger Chinese aircraft, landed safely back at Pudong airport in Shanghai.

Some 40 domestic and global flights were canceled and over 30 others were delayed at the Pudong airport to give way to the test flying around 2pm.

Comac is a state-owned Chinese company and symbolises the government's desire to break into the commercial aviation space.

The first large Chinese-made passenger jet has taken off on its maiden flight, a key milestone for a country seeking a place in the global aviation market.

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The C919 will seat 158 to 174 people, six abreast, and is meant to compete with the Boeing 737 and Airbus A320 families of planes in the so-called single-aisle market.

Beijing is also already looking beyond the C919, with plans to develop a wide-body long-haul jet with Russian Federation.

The twin-engine C919, whose name sounds like the Chinese word for "everlasting", can seat 168 passengers in an arrangement similar to other narrow-body jets: three white-velvet upholstered seats line each side of its central aisle.

China began to develop its own jumbo passenger jets in the 1970s and the first one, the Y-10, had a successful test flight in 1980. It was technically ready for takeoff in March this year. More than 200,000 technicians worked on the project.

Crew members of the C919, China's first homegrown large passenger plane, wave at spectators in Shanghai on Friday after the plane completed its first test flight. Already, COMAC has received 20 orders for the C919 from the US-based aircraft lessor GE Capital Aviation Services, amid a total of 570 orders from domestic and overseas companies. The engines are designed by the US-French joint venture CFM International. This centre will not assemble the airliners, however; it will fit out new aircraft assembled and flown in from the United States with cabin interiors and paint them in the customer-airlines liveries. Chinese media report that a C919 will cost some $50-million, said to be less than half the price of an Airbus A320 or a Boeing 737.

Ma called on agencies and personnel involved in the maiden flight to persist in their efforts to enhance science and technology innovation, with the focus on improving quality and safety, in a bid to make the aircraft into a landmark in the era of reform and opening up and China's journey to becoming an innovative country and manufacturing power. "Boeing has 100 years, Airbus has over 40 years", said Sinolink Securities analyst Si Jingzhe, adding COMAC still lagged far behind in terms of supply chain know-how.

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